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With Cruz heading to the disabled list for the third-straight August, it looks like David Murphy will take over in right field. Expect some parallels to be drawn between what Murphy did last season during Josh Hamilton’s absence (he hit .331/.402/.530 from August 1 on) and what folks hope he can do during Cruz’s injury-caused vacation. It’s not a slam-dunk situation, though, as Murphy is in the midst of the worst season of his major league career, and Martin’s presence could limit the leash Murphy is given.
A wide range of tools and some early success in the minors inflated Martin’s hype balloon and left some speculating that he could take over in center field for the Rangers in the playoffs. Sure enough, Martin will be postseason eligible barring a quick demotion, but whereas he looked like a readymade starter during his time in Double-A (.348/.435/.571) his misadventures in Triple-A (.263/.316/.314) leave him more likely to man a reserve role for the rest of 2011. Martin is just 23, and if Jason Parks’ recent report on the Cuban defector is any indication, then he has quite the future in this game:
Some scouts rave about his hit tool, although the doubters of its long-term utility remain vocal. His bat has more juice than just slap; Martin is quite strong and capable of being more than just an empty average. He has a mature approach and can sting the ball. His defense is still a work in progress, but the tools are there for an above-average defender—he has range, a good glove, and a very strong arm. The rust is also there, and the process of getting back into baseball shape after a long layoff takes time. But Martin looks like the Rangers’ future center fielder, with plus defense and a bat that was better than advertised.
Of course, Martin can only play in October if the Rangers make it, and right now, the odds look good. Our playoff odds report has the Rangers with an 89.4 percent chance at cracking the postseason. Texas’s series victory over the Angels this past weekend should come in handy, as they take a 3 1/2 game lead into a nine-game stretch against the Rays and Red Sox with six of those games coming on the road. From there, the Rangers will face the Athletics, Indians, and Mariners—with two series apiece against the A’s and M’s—before jetting to Anaheim to face the Angels in a three-game set that will conclude the regular season. That series could take on the winner-takes-all significance that last season’s Padres-Giants finale held should the Rangers stumble ever so slightly in the interim.
Worth noting is the rumor that Mark Hamburger will also join the Rangers in the coming hours. Nothing is official yet; however Hamburger is best known for being involved in the 2008 Rangers-Twins trade for Eddie Guardado that led to many, many fat jokes. Prior to this season, Hamburger had worked exclusively out of the bullpen, but the Rangers moved him into the Round Rock rotation over the last few weeks. Despite the inexperience, Hamburger pitched well out of the rotation, giving up just two runs and three walks in 16 1/3 innings pitched while striking out 14 batters. Ostensibly, his role with the Rangers will be as a reliever.